“The history of the Chinese in struggling for a legitimate place in the country (then Malaya) and the history of Chinese education movement cannot be divorced from the work of this man, Lim Lian Geok.”-The Star,23 Dec.1985
Lim Lian Geok (1901-1985), former Chairman of The United Chinese School Teachers’ Association Of Malaysia (popularly known as Jiao Zong), was a great educationalist as well as a famous social activist.
He was born and educated in China, came to Malaya in 1925 as a teacher and became a citizen of this country in 1951 . He actively involved in local social reformation after The World War II.
In 1945, he took charge of the rehabilitation of the Confucian Chinese School which was destroyed by the war. In 1949,he set up the Kuala Lumpur Chinese School Teachers’ Association to look after the welfare of the then lowly-paid teachers. In 1951, he was one of the pioneers in setting up the now influential United Chinese School Teachers’ Association Of Malaysia, and became its chairman in 1953, holding that position for 8 years until he was revoked of his citizenship and stripped of his teaching permit in 1961.
During his term as chairman of Jiao Zong, he was practically the spokesman of the Chinese community on issues of Chinese education as well as Chinese’s civil rights in this country. He advocated the independence of the nation which before 1957 was under the British colonial rule .He strived incessantly for equality between all the ethnic groups. He believed that all races should work together to build and develop the nation;
The non-Malays should be royal to the country and the Malays should endorse the concept of “peaceful co-existences” and “ sharing with other races”. Prior to the nation’s independence, he also started a movement to encourage the Chinese who chose to settle in Malaya to apply for citizenship, and through this effort , the number of Chinese citizens jumped from 120,000 to 700,000.
On issues of Chinese education, he led confrontations and tough negotiations with the colonial government and later the Government led by Tunku Abdul Rahman. In 1960, he led a movement to oppose the Rahman Talib Report which intended to abolish the Chinese Secondary Schools. However, he was forced to end this relentless efforts to have the clause removed as his citizenship was revoked on August 12 by the Home Minister, and, later, his teaching permit was stripped. He was since secluded from the society and spent time writing his memoir, and yet still paying attention to current issues until the last drop of his life.
In 1985, he died of lung infection. The honour the Chinese community bestowed on him upon his death was to turn the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (recently gazetted by the Ministry Of Culture, Arts and Heritage as the National Heritage) into the funeral parlour, the first time this has been done in its past 60 years of history. People from all over the country, put aside their works and came all the way to pay their last respects to him, including high-ranking leaders of political parties such as MCA, DAP, GERAKAN and PAS. A fund in memory of him was set up, which was later registered as LLG Cultural Development Centre, a non-profit organization.